Friday, May 9, 2008

Data To Die For

How can we realistically trust the data that come out of the various US departments anymore? Even given the benefit of the doubt, i.e. assuming model massage was originally established to provide a clearer picture of the US economy, the ultimate result now looks more like an elaborate GIGO * contraption designed by Rube Goldberg.

Case in point: the Net Birth/Death model of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. During the most severe downturn in the real estate and homebuilding sector since the Great Depression, the model keeps creating phantom construction jobs (see chart below, click to enlarge).


Not only did the model spew out a total of 98,000 net additional construction jobs in the 12 months to April 2008, it produced more such jobs in April 2008 than the same month last year (45,000 vs. 37,000, or +21%). In other words, new construction businesses that were established in that period supposedly created many more jobs than those lost from businesses shutting down.

The first casualty of war is the truth - Aeschylus. Problem is, who's the enemy?


_____________________
*Garbage in, garbage out

49 comments:

OkieLawyer said...

The same statistics said that we gained employment last month. Unemployment down, even though continuing unemployment claims were up.

Hellasious said...

No, actually the BLS reported -20,000 jobs. The unemployment RATE was down (very slightly). And that is another can of worms, right there..

Independent Accountant said...

Shadowstats has been blasting various Government statistics for years. Our inflation statistics are a joke.

Unsympathetic said...

The enemy is Americans who receive social security and the middle class who pays for it.

Anonymous said...

Grover, is that you?

yoyomo said...

Hel,
Did you have a chance to check out www.uProdigy.com (click "how it works").

Marcus said...

"Problem is, who's the enemy?"

We are, especially people like you Hell, because we hold the power to stop the charade.

Yea Thai, the Shrub is not to blame for our economic troubles completely, but look at two sets of statistics:

Fed budget surplus in 2000--$236 billion.

Fed budget deficit in 2008--approaching $1 trillion.

National debt 2000--$5.7 trillion.

National debt 2008--$9.5 trillion.

Add to this the lack of regulation and enforcement of laws in the mortgage broker-- investment bank Ponzi scheme and you have a huge dyslexic frat-boy hangover of an economy.

Look at the graph of debt over GDP during the toxic Reagan, Bush, Bush years as compared to Clinton: http://zfacts.com/p/318.html

The republicans got a long way to go to win back the "fiscally responsible" banner.

yoyomo said...

Marcus,
Although I agree with you that Clinton's stewardship of the economy was preferable to Bush's but I've seen it cited in a few articles that total Treasury debt outstanding continued to increase even when the govt was publishing surplus budget figures.

Maybe Hel might know more on this contradiction and why debt outstanding goes up by more than the defecit for that year.

dearieme said...

"Clinton's stewardship of the economy": what an unconstituional notion.

yoyomo said...

Off-Topic but anyone with a strong interest in the food crisis and corporate control of the global food supply might want to look at:

Liberalizing Food Trade to Death@
http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/
hattingh060508.html

A bit long and heavily foot-noted but very edifying.

dearieme,
all administrations attempt to steer the economy in one direction or another; in Thai's words-it is what it is-our concurrence is neither required nor requested

Thai said...

Marcus I really agree with everything you said, even the sentiment (if I read you correctly).

But I also tend to look at explanations of the US budget deficit a little like Taleb looks at explanations of successful investors in his book "Fooled by Randomness".

We think we understand the 'cause' of the US deficit (Bush) by seeing how 'it went down under Clinton and up under Bush', yet we fail to see other plausible explanations (perhaps a improvement in America's productivity occurred in the 90's; perhaps the challenges of 9-11 and the popping of the internet bubble were 'too much' for the Bush administration.


I just don't think America's president really has all that much power in comparison to the power of the activities of 300 million citizens (except of course when The President does have tremendous power, like the ability to declare war, etc...).

And I am not excusing ANY of the failings that occur under an administration, rather I also recognize leaders of organizations are often afforded unfounded blame and praise. Most things that happen in an organization are really way beyond their control.


Perhaps a fair example might be drugs in America. We have an elaborate 'regulatory system' to catch, punish, 'rehabilitate' drug users, sellers, etc... Yet the reality remains that drug use is quite prevalant in America. Americans themselves are really fragging their own leaders on this issue.

If a large enough % of people 'ignore' rules and regulations, there is nothing a president/government can do.

Spending is out of control in this country because Americans do not want to stop spending. Not at home, not in governement, they just don't want to stop.

wkwillis said...

It's easy to make it look like Clinton didn't have a budget surplus.
All you got to do is report the off budget figures accurately.
Of course, that makes the Republicans look even worse...

yoyomo said...

wkwillis,
The only thing I can think of is that the purchases of Treasury debt by the SocSecAdm went up by more than the "surplus" in the published figures which would mean that the operating budget was in deficit and only SocSec contributions covered the gap.

I wish Hel would weigh in.

Thai said...

wkwillis: so true, so true!

I see this as going all the way back to Regan, who was unable to cut spending (in fact he increased it) but did cut taxes. The economy 'took off' , but only by creating a bunch of IOUs. It has basically been the same story ever since.

In fact, I don't think any administration has really been able to cut spending since Regan (some have been better at slowing its growth than others).

Hell would know the figures better than I, but government spending (local, state and federal combined) is now approaching 50% of our economy.

If 0% is a 'pure' free market' economy and 100% is communism, what is the right % for America?

The most common solution to our deficit problem is: 'raise taxes'-- so the proponents of this approach think the number should be 60%? 70%?

What % is enough?

I truly do not know-- but I don't think 100% is it.

dink said...

I went to one of Yoyomo's referenced e-magazines, but may have read the wrong article. The article I read was still about global food problems, though.

Discouraging. How do we balance moral hazards vs. compassion? And by "we" it could be as individuals or entire governments. The SocSecAdm is a huge example on a national scale. Donating $ to Myanmar cyclone victims, who should have revolted against their own gov years ago, is an example on an individual scale.

Thai:
"What % is enough?"

If only there were a way to correlate a gov's integrity/effective % with the tax rate %. I seem to recall you posting that you'd pay 90% if you trusted the gov to be smart with it. Of course if we instituted some sort of incentive program like this they'd first try to cheat the metrics (even worse than they are now per Hell's "Data To Die For"). We'd have to be on the lookout for that. Maybe Hell could be appointed Data Czar!

Thai said...

Dink, you are right there isn't... I would if I trusted them but I don't always. To be fair I care for government workers all day long-- I neither trust them more nor less than anyone else-- thought I have often noted a lack of concern towards productivity/efficiency-- lot's of focus on 'how long do people work', little focus on 'how much they get done' while they are working.... the old joke 'how many people does it take to screw in a lightbulb?'


I have no solution to the issue-- but I keep looking for one.

yoyomo said...

Dink,
The article was about the concentration of control of the global food supply by 6-7 large multi-nationals and how trade policy was used to open up foreign food markets and decimate small farmers and then raise prices once those countries had lost their ability to feed themselves. I think you read the right article if you were sufficiently
discouraged by it.

Thai,
A good place to save money is the gradual decriminalization of drug use. The war on drugs is just an excuse to concentrate more coercive power in the hands of the govt. If pot was legal it would no longer serve as a gateway drug to harder drugs and criminal behavior but eventually all restrictions should be lifted on stay-at-home users. Like liquor and tobacco it could be regulated (no advertising, etc.).

W/respect to apathetic govt workers, this may sound naive but I do think that better management coupled with periodic placement exams (to determine who was suited for promotion) would solve most of the problem. When people understand clearly what is expected of them and they are given the proper training they usually do their job. Ambiguity and unattainable odds are the biggest killers of initiative.

Thai said...

yoyomo- I am kind of agnostic on the legalization of drugs issue-- as an emergency physician, I see A LOT of drug use and the harm it casuses/lives it destroys. My opinion on this issue will literally be different on Monday than it was the Sunday before and it will different still on Tuesday.

As for solving government's productivity issues with better management-- isn't this true for everything? Who can disagree with the idea that in a world where people are perfect, we will have less troubles?

Better management in the private sector would also obviate the need for better govenment in the first place-- in fact better workers in the private sector would obviate the need for better govenment (they wouldn't need to be managed in the first place).

And I don't think any exam can sort the wheat from the chaffe so to say-- there are lots of 'bright' people on this planet who will never make good employees/good managers. Similarly there are lots of 'not so bright people' who make wonderful employees/managers.

Intelligence is not integrity, nor is it productivity

yoyomo said...

Thai,
The people you see in the ER didn't stay home; I'm for draconian penalties for public inebriation.

Few people complain about incompetence among firefighters. I think the main reason (besides gratitude) is they have clearly defined duties and receive proper training. Most civil service workers are overworked and have vague responsibilities for which they are not well prepared; by the time they learn the ropes they are fed up and ready to move on.

Born2Code said...

thai,

American presidents have plenty of power when it comes to budget deficits and surpluses.
Let us take the Iraqi situation for example.

Both Clinton and GW lied extensively about Iraq but decided to take different set of actions.

Americans will selectively "not remember" what happened at the end of the first Iraqi war. At the end of that war Iraq was asked to demolish its remaining weapons of mass destruction and missiles, and was given a deadline for a review to lift the U.N. sanctions.

Iraq went ahead and destroyed the weapons, as everybody who reads non US mainstream media knows. Everybody knew that the sanctions were going to be lifted during the Security Council meetings. Out of the blue the Clinton administration vetoed the resolution and insisted on extending the sanctions, to everybody's surprise. The excuse given had nothing to do with the weapons but other frivolous issues that were not part of the original agreement.

From there forward it became a mere game. Admitted spies were part of the inspection teams. The teams never found anything because the weapons were destroyed as everybody knew. They kept pushing the Iraqi government around and toying with it. Meanwhile the sanctions kept on coming. Further the US and UK declared a no-fly-zone WITHOUT a U.N. resolution. Another little know lie as we keep claiming the Iraqi violated the no-fly-zone in violation of U.N. Resolutions, when there was never a resolution regarding that, just a white house decision.

Any how, whenever Clinton wanted to flex some muscles he lobbed missiles onto Baghdad killing few civilians and destroying buildings.

He smartly contained the Iraqis, manufactured an excuse for us to control the area militarily without committing massive resources and the USA purchased the Iraqi oil for cheap under the Food-for-oil scam.

The end justified the means and Clinton served our national interest very well, ethics be damned.

Let me point out that under every review the Iraqis presented the same documentation regarding the destruction of the weapons. We kept claiming that the documents were not accurate because not all missiles were accounted for.
The number of "missing" missiles was a fraction of the number of laptops that our FBI lost track of a decade later.
So a country decimated by the first gulf war, that had poor computing and tracking facilities to start with, did a better job of tracking their missiles than our FBI did tracking its computers and guns.
In other words, the whole discrepancy was just an excuse to keep the sanctions going.

So Clinton lied but he used the lies to our advantage and to keep oil flowing and cheap.

Contrast that with Bush's action. Bush lied as well regarding the weapons of mass destructions, he lied about connections to Al-Qaeda, he blatantly lied about terrorist camps in northern Iraq. Camps that were in the no fly zone and under OUR and the Kurds control not under Baghdad's control.

Instead of containing Iraq like Clinton did for 8 years and instead of controlling the whole area without actually committing a massive deployment of troops Bush chose to engage in a unilateral war.

The projected cost of that war is pushing ONE TRILLION dollars. That's the same trillion that makes up our deficit in 2008 and over 10% of our National debt.

So can one president make a difference? you bet... he can and he did.

I am not going to say anything about the sub-prime fiasco. You can do your own search on 'ownership society' and see what Bush did to contribute to that fiasco. Not to mention the rule changes done in secret to allow bond insurers to insure sub-prime derivatives.

yoyomo said...

Thanks born2code,
That was an excellent summary but it can be so exhausting arguing with the flag-wavers (or maybe they're just oil coveters but too embarassed to admit it).

Hel highly recommends Michael Klare and he's got a new article on TomDispatch about peak oil defeating the American Empire.

Thai said...

Born2code, please re-read what wrote: "...except of course when The President does have tremendous power, like the ability to declare war, etc...".

You are absolutely correct-- 10% is a whole lot of our debt-- and it was caused by GW, AND it is still only 10%-- the other 90% cannot be explained by the war. So without taking away the tragedy of that 10%, still don't loose sight of the bigger picture. Where did the the other 90% come from?

If the war ended soon, the growth of our debt would slow, but it would still grow.

Born2Code said...

thai my friend. I am not blaming GW for everything, just for the 10% :)
the 90% is caused by the overspending congress (republicans and democrats alike) and tragically our sense of entitlement as a nation.
For some reason we are certain that god blessed us at the expense of all other earth inhabitants, humans and otherwise and that it is our duty to consume more and produce less.

I think of our nation as a big version of General Motors. We got on top of the world via innovation, hard word and a dash of good timing. Instead of capitalizing on what we achieved we got complacent and pissed it all (or most) away.

What we need is to focus or production vs. consumption, on innovation vs. complacency and on saving/investing vs. squandering...

whether we actually do that or continue on our current path of self-destruction is unknown.

Born2Code said...

thanks yoyomo,
I've never read Klare before. I try to limit my readings to independent news outlets and technical books.
I stay away from political agenda books, even those that I may completely agree with.
I will make an exception in this case since i highly value Hel's opinion and his recommendations.
thanks again.

The Fundamental Analyst said...

Whilst I agree it is absurd for the BLS to claim that 98k construction jobs were added in April. You need to add the caveat that you cannot compare 98,k new construction jobs to the -20k reported job loss for the month of April. The former number is not seasonally adjusted whilst the latter is.

yoyomo said...

Thai,
That 10% is just from one minor war, you're forgetting about the $600B/yr Pentagon budget. Check out Chalmers Johnson on total military spending tucked away in different budget items. Military spending is much higher than official figures and more than accounts for the total Federal Debt through the years, not just the 90% you alluded to.

born2code,
The Klare article is not the least bit political, it is a technical analysis of the military's fuel consumption and how that level of consumption will be impossible to provide as prices continue to escalate. Once the flow of fuel is curtailed, the military will no longer be able to maintain its level of operation and be forced to retreat:

www.tomdispatch.com

It's the latest article and is still on the home page.

Edwardo said...

Just looking at the tax reciept data gives the lie to the numbers coming from officialdom on anything having to do with employment specifically, and the economy generally.

Thai wrote:

We think we understand the 'cause' of the US deficit (Bush) by seeing how 'it went down under Clinton and up under Bush', yet we fail to see other plausible explanations (perhaps a improvement in America's productivity occurred in the 90's;

-Even if productivity gains were genuine and substantial, they were not such that they explain, let alone justify the differences in the deficit today versus during Clinton's time in office.

perhaps the challenges of 9-11 and the popping of the internet bubble were 'too much' for the Bush administration.

- In the collective psyche of Wall Street, the Internet was "too much", ergo the manufactured real estate bubble that followed. The truth was that the popped internet bubble was hardly too much for the general economy to cope with. So, to the degree that The Bush Administration was, (and is) incompetent -and deeply corrupt, they always go hand in hand though often it is fiendishly difficult to tell where one begins and one ends, and couldn't recognize that the demise of the internet bubble was far from dire for the general economy-then yes, it was too much for them.

9/11 was clearly a godsend politically for Bush, and as such, a disaster for, as per this discussion, the nation's finances, since it gave his administration the cover to engage in crushingly expensive military operations.

I just don't think America's president really has all that much power in comparison to the power of the activities of 300 million citizens (except of course when The President does have tremendous power, like the ability to declare war, etc...).

-The President's power is at least concentrated, whereas the power, such as it is, of we 300 million is dispersed and that is vastly understating the degree of attenuation. I believe that the size of a nation's population has an inverse relation to their political heft such that the more folks there are, the less effective political force they tend to exercise. How could it be otherwise in large heterogeneous populations? This is why relatively small claques have managed to despotically rule-if not neccessarily successfully govern-over enormous groups of people. Present day China comes to mind. In any case, the putative collective power of we 300 million is largely theoretical.


And I am not excusing ANY of the failings that occur under an administration, rather I also recognize leaders of organizations are often afforded unfounded blame and praise. Most things that happen in an organization are really way beyond their control.

-Except when they aren't.


Perhaps a fair example might be drugs in America. We have an elaborate 'regulatory system' to catch, punish, 'rehabilitate' drug users, sellers, etc... Yet the reality remains that drug use is quite prevalant in America. Americans themselves are really fragging their own leaders on this issue. .

If a large enough % of people 'ignore' rules and regulations, there is nothing a president/government can do.

- Indeed. We are ungovernable in this, and many other things, sometimes by design, but often just because the ability to do so simply isn't there.

Spending is out of control in this country because Americans do not want to stop spending. Not at home, not in governement, they just don't want to stop.

-Many can't stop, though doubtless some, perhaps just as many, as you put it, simply "don't want to stop."

Marcus wrote:

We are, especially people like you Hell, because we hold the power to stop the charade.

- With thinking like that I can see that you never captained the debate team. Hell has only slightly more ability "to stop it" than you or I have the abilty to not lose weight were we to stop eating for an extended period of time. However, Hell, in his discourse, makes a valuable contribution that could concievably lead others to make choices that could subsequently lead to other outcomes than the ones that presently seem likely. All this is my longwinded way of telling you to, "Get a grip."

Hellasious said...

To: fundamental analyst

I didn't make a comparison of the monthly -20,000 headline payroll job loss (seasonally adjusted) with the BED data. I am aware the BED model in non-seasonally adjusted, which is why I compared Y-O-Y and cumulative numbers only.

But your comment is well taken, particularly to prevent others from making improper comparisons.

Regards,
H.

Thai said...

Edwardo, I am not saying that changes in productivity iwere the actual casue of improved tax receipts in the 90's, I simply meant to give another plausible explanation. My point is we often really do not understand all the reasons things are occuring for quite some time.

And as I was telling born2code, occasionally the President does have a lot of power (and he/she certanily has more than any other individual on this planet). But that power is still small in my opinion compared with the collective actions of the many-- who are rarely aligned and therefore do not 'act as one' (except in very rare circumstances).

I just don't think looking to our leaders will ever be the pathway to salvation.

Just my 2 cents

As for the fact that people 'can't' stop spending-- there is a whole lot of interpretation to what the word 'can't' means.

Modern man has been on this on this planet for all of 100,000 years. What is your temporal benchmark when you use the word 'can't'? White America of the 1950's, 60's and 70's?

What are the boundaries you use when you make such statements?

yoyomo said...

Thai,
You're being too charitable to Bush, he could have stopped millions of subprime borrowers from taking out unaffordable loans simply by letting state regulators do their job. Instead he ordered the comptroller of the currency to pre-empt the state regulators and then refused to do any oversight at the federal level after stripping the state regulators of their authority.

Gov. Spitzer was in DC to launch a campaign with other governors and state AG's on this issue when he got busted for the hooker. Coincidence? I think not.

Edwardo,
I may come off as a conspiracy nut (I am, I won't deny it) but I'm of the opinion that many problems (war on drugs for example) can't be solved by design; continuing it is too lucrative, same with Iraq. Incompetence is only the fig leaf behind which TPTB accomplish their unstated goals.

yoyomo said...

Thai,
please,please,please go to:

www.nakedcapitalism.com

and read the top story for May 11 "Why So Little Interest in Danish Flexicurity?" It's slightly long but it answers your questions about the poor quality of govt workers in the US.

Edwardo said...

Thai wrote:

As for the fact that people 'can't' stop spending-- there is a whole lot of interpretation to what the word 'can't' means.

-Actually what people can't stop doing, at least not of their own volition, isn't spending, per se, but rather, becoming more in debt. Spending is, of, course, the manner in which folks become more in debt. But I am of the mind that most of the debt is incurred for necessities, food, energy costs for home and transportation, and medical care, rather than for non-discretionary items like plasma T.V.s home extensions, vacations to Disneyworld and Vegas, etc, etc.

As for temporal comparisons, well, at the moment,
I am hard pressed, though I feel strongly that any comparisons to epochs before modernity took hold are, for a variety of reasons, specious.

Having said that, I don't know if, in the aggregate, we are collectively better off, economically, than our "white" predecessors from the mid 20th century through the 1970s, but I suspect that without the kind of access to credit that has been heretofore, available, many would not be.

Thai said...

yoyomo-- you are fencing with yourself.

First of all, I don't think government workers in the US are 'poor quality'. if the truth be know, as a general rule, I think government workers are often better than private sector workers-- as I would expect considering they are on average better pay and benefits and MUCH greater job security than the median private sector employee-- Falls Church Virginia has the highest median income in the United States for a reason.

As I said earlier, I do think thgovernment workers tend to ignore productivity more than I would if I worked in government, but this may be my lopsided view of them.

Second of all, the naked capitalism article does not answer that issue at all IF YOU think they are poor quality. Instead it addresses the differences between the US and Denmark from the viewpoint that the Danish economic system is more desireable than our own since it has more 'security' and less 'inequality'.

But as I have said before, comparing nations is fraught with problems IMHO; Denmark is not America. The only way I can highlight this is by reminding you that Danes have so much trust-faith in each other they are comfortable leaving their newborn infants unattended in strollers outside while they shop in stores.
Such an act requires a tremendous level of national trust-faith.

And to repeat my views-- It does not matter whether a good job is done by the public sector or the private sector: as long as it is a 'good job'. The important thing is to 'get it right'.

And getting it right IMHO requires cooperation which requires trust (if I read you correctly, you often don't trust anyone. From my point of view I don't see how any economy would ever function in your universe).

... As I have said over and over, IMHO, it is issues of trust, faith and integrity that are the biggest predictors of whether a society will be successful and wealthy. The Danes seemed to be blessed with an abundance of trust-- I am not yet convinced this is the result of good policy as opposed to vice versa.

Outerbeltway if you are reading this, since you read my powerpoints on cooperation and liked them, perhaps you can help me get this point across to yoyomo better? Even if you don't agree with my point, I would appreciate another voice helping me explain this.

Thai said...

Hell-- it appears you have another subject for a posting if you want to comment as Edwardo has said: "But I am of the mind that most of the debt is incurred for necessities, food, energy costs for home and transportation, and medical care, rather than for non-discretionary items like plasma T.V.s home extensions, vacations to Disneyworld and Vegas, etc, etc."

We have an issue of fact which should be resolvable easily (at least more easily than subjects of opinion). So what is the truth?

My understanding (and I admit I may be wrong), is the main causes of escalating spending/debt by American households are

1. Housing
2. Medical care
3. Education


All three in my mind are bubbles.

yoyomo said...

Thai,
I most definitely agree with you on the importance of trust and co-operation and I do trust regular people. My suspicions are reserved for those who gravitate towards power.

Power may have the potential to corrupt but more often by far it attracts like a magnet those who are inherently corrupt even if they haven't yet had the opportunity to manifest that aspect of their nature.

What other reason did BozoBush have for running for president except to exploit the power of the office and "replenish the ol' coffers" of his cronies so they could replenish his after he left office. It certianly wasn't for the benefit of the country. In a situation with so many power trippers it's logical to not to trust any of them too readily.

The aspect of the Danish system that stood out to me, and which I think facilitates trust and co-operation, is that people are made to feel that they are valued and that their loyalty will be rewarded. Increasingly I think, that mentality is being replaced in the US by every one for himself and if you break a leg and can't work that's your problem, you can always sleep in a cardboard box.

I see it as a circle, co-operation and trust and a caring society re-inforce each other. I don't think the Danes would be able to leave their newborns parked outside shops if they had a Darwinian society with high levels of desperation, frustration and alienation.

Finally, do you have an innocent explanation of why Bush would prohibit state regulators from preventing fraudulent lending (by both the mgt brokers and the borrowers) and refuse to have the Fed do it? It was in its statutory authority to oversee the mgt mkt. I think my dark suspicions are well placed in this instance.

Thai said...

Yoyomo said: "My suspicions are reserved for those who gravitate towards power."

Response: While this certainly has its prudence, it also has a quality of that old Groucho Marx quip "I wouldn't belong to a club that would have me as a member".
In the end, we want good leaders- and people do tend to gravitate to what they do best (it is a fundamental human behavioral trait we all share). The fact someone craves power is not grounds for exclusion in my mind, just like a person who craves money should not necessarily be denied it. The question is what they do with it and how much integrity they have. Warren Buffet seems to crave managing/investing money-- as far as I am concerned, let him do it. He has more than 'proven' his integrity around the stewardship of money.


yoyomo said... "The aspect of the Danish system that stood out to me, and which I think facilitates trust and co-operation, is that people are made to feel that they are valued and that their loyalty will be rewarded. Increasingly I think, that mentality is being replaced in the US by every one for himself and if you break a leg and can't work that's your problem".

Response: I thought you said you want stiff penalties for public inebriation? You seem to literally yoyo on this kind of stuff from comment to comment-- bad when others do it, but have compassion on me when I fail.


yoyomo said: "I don't think the Danes would be able to leave their newborns parked outside shops if they had a Darwinian society with high levels of desperation, frustration and alienation"

Side response first: This is a little like Edwardo's statement earlier when he said "though I feel strongly that any comparisons to epochs before modernity took hold are, for a variety of reasons, specious"... As if the laws of physics and evolution suddenly vanished when the modern world and especially Denmark came into being?

I have no real response to this other than to say evolution is just as active today as it was 100,000 years ago (directed at Edwardo) and is similarly just as active in Denmark today as it is in America. You seem to silo things in ways that speak to your own particular view of the world, yet these silos do not speak to mine. Darwin is just as alive and kicking in Denmark as he is in the US and yet the Danes still cooperate.

Response to intent of comment: Americans do not cooperate like the Danes because our society does not look like Danish society. Our countries have very different origins, histories, ethnicities, political systems, economic systems and ‘yes’ social structures. Denmark has a population of only 5 million; the US has a population of 300 million. If you were to ‘carve out’ certain geographically contiguous areas on a map f the US which included 5 million people, you could probably come up with an area where ‘equality’ within that geography looked quite similar to Denmark. Conversely, if you were to include all 350 million Europeans ‘as one’, the income inequalities combined would be greater than America. And while all Danes might trust each other, people in other countries (say Iranians offended by religious cartoons?) might not trust Danes as much as they trust themselves.
Oh, and by the way as an FYI, Denmark is part of the 'coalition of the willing'. They sent troops to Iraq along with the US after a very open national debate on the subject.

yoyomo said: "Finally, do you have an innocent explanation of why Bush would prohibit state regulators from preventing fraudulent lending"?

Response: Absolutely-- ideology! Bush’s ideology on this issue seems no different than many other people, including Mish. And while Mish seems like a fellow interested in making a buck, he certainly doesn't seem like someone out 'to screw' his fellow man.

Edwardo said...

"Yoyomo wrote"

Power may have the potential to corrupt but more often by far it attracts like a magnet those who are inherently corrupt even if they haven't yet had the opportunity to manifest that aspect of their nature.

Towards that notion, Scottish Comedian Billy Connolly offers the following on politicians, "Don't vote for them, it only encourages them."

Thai said...

Edwardo (quoting another)said: ", "Don't vote for them, it only encourages them."

LOL!!!!!!!!!

With wisdom such as that, I humbly surrender :-)

wkwillis said...

Thai
Reagan did not cut taxes. He raised social security taxes and lowered income taxes, and on net raised taxes. Receipts went up instantly because of the increased social security taxes.

Thai said...

wkwillis-- as you remind me, I too am making the same error of 'silos' I often see other people make (in truth I forgot about the Social Security 'fix', it all happened when I was in high school).

Thanks for the correction, my bad. :-)

yoyomo said...

Thai,
In all honesty, I don't see the contradiction between funding unemployment benefits and effective job training programs (what the article described) on the one hand and stiff penalties for public intoxication (which endangers public safety) on the other.

I'm not suggesting preventing anyone from aspiring to leadership positions (somebody has to do it); simply keeping in mind that power attracts alot of wolves in sheep's clothing and to maintain a healthy dose of skepticism. A good hint as to the level of integrity, or lack there of, is the degree of excessive ambition (desperation?) exhibited in the pursuit of that position. How low will s/he stoop to get the job (imply that your opponent fathered an illegitimate black child when he really adopted an orphan)?

Ideology? Seriously Thai, and catastrophe be damned? I could be wrong but I think Mish would be horrified to be mentioned in the same library shelf with a dissembler of Bozo's caliber. Well then, can you come up with an innocent explanation for the lies summarized in this short article:

www.commondreams.org/archive/
2008/05/09/8834/

And Denmark held their national debate on joining the coalition of the gulible based on those lies told to them by Bushler.

Thai said...

yoyomo, are you talking about the war in Iraq or government attempts to prevent excessive loan risk?

You jump between issues in a way that is very hard to follow.

Mish is not in favor of a lot of government regulations on the loan industry (he thinks they tend to just 'muddy things'). And he is also opposed to the war.

I was referring to your 'dark' interpretation of Bush's attempt to squelch Spitzer. I think Mish and Bush are on the same page on this topic. And as an FYI, by the time Spitzer was looking to change state regulations, the bubble had already peaked. So while Spitzer's 'intent' might have been honerable, his actual ability to positively impact things is quite limited.

As for the Danes.-- they are adults. There are MANY things they have no problem disagreeing with Americans on. I think your statement begets a certain partisanism I do not share.

yoyomo said...

Thai,
You accuse me of bringing up Iraq in the middle of a discussion about loan risk but if you retrace the thread you will see that you were the one who mentioned Denmark's involvment in the invasion/occupation and (in reply to born2code) that its cost was less than 10% of the National Debt; I merely responded. As for aggregate military spending, that has everything to do with the nation's solvency.

As an aside, you rightly emphasize the importance of integrity but you don't seem too bothered by the total lack of it in the Bush regime. If the Danish adults foolishly believed blatant lies, that does not excuse the one who lied to them.

The only other explanation is that they didn't believe the lies but cynically abetted Bush's war crimes in which case you're right, they made an informed decision to be as guilty as he is.

W/respect to Mish, I know he is against the existence of the Fed and over-regulation but I doubt he is in favor of the law turning a blind eye to rampant fraud.

Spitzer's efforts had nothing to do with changing regulations, simply enforcing existing state laws (as NY State Attorney General along with the other 49 AG's) and all this happened back in 2003 well before most of the damage was done. Bush ordered the comptroller of the currency to pre-empt Spitzer and the other 49 AG's; read Spitzer's op-ed in the Washington Post Feb14:

"Predatory Lenders' Partner in Crime"

Thai said...

As for Bush-- I am not a spokesperson for the Bush administration (I didn't even vote for him). But I do not view him as 'evil' (incompetent 'yes', evil 'no'). If and when he lies, it definitely bothers me.

As for the time line regarding loans, I thought the AG's were 'making noise' later than it appears they were. From your posting it appears I was late to the news and that the AG's were trying to do the right thing earlier than I thought. I was wrong/have misunderstood, my bad.

yoyomo said...

Fair enough Thai, we'll agree to disagree amicably.

yoyomo said...

Sorry Thai,
I can't resist one last point. If the AG's were only 'making noise', the banks wouldn't have had to sic their poodle on the AG's. Obviously they were doing alot more than making noise.

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